September 30, 2013
It's pretty clear that if you have a job and don't write a book of workplace wisdom, your life is essentially worthless and will be forgotten the moment your carcass is laid to rest.
I base that conclusion on the overwhelming number of work-related books I receive each week, so many that it seems every person with a pulse and a paycheck must be penning something. Many of these books are not so much published as they are pumped — at high velocity — from a bottomless well.
And most of them are as useful as a handkerchief made of cheese.
Still, in the interest of my readers' legacies, I've paddled up this endless stream of books and brought back tips that should allow anyone to crank out an inspirational career tome that's at least on par with the ones I'm using to build my work ark. (Don't miss my upcoming book, "Building Your Work Ark: Get Ready for a Flood — of Success!")
•The last thing you need to worry about is content. These are books people pick up on a whim at the airport, stuff in their carry-on bags and never read. At least half of all workplace-themed books are just blank pages wrapped in an irresistible cover.
So the key is the title. You need a title that makes people believe they will die in poverty if they don't buy your book. To achieve that, go to the closet and get out your old Yahtzee game. Take out the five dice and attach different words to the six sides of each.
You'll need 30 words, and here are the ones I recommend: innovation, unleash, fearless, ordinary, extraordinary, overcoming, winning, successful, create, culture, guide, transformational, honesty, passion, envision, simple, embrace, self-awareness, actualize, valiant, productivity, career, potential, leadership, how, own, network, relationships, online, flatulence. (I added "flatulence" just to keep things interesting.)
Now roll those dice, add prepositions and conjunctions as needed and you've got your title. Who wouldn't want "A Guide to Simple, Valiant Online Self-Awareness" or "Embrace and Unleash the Fearless Leadership Culture?" They're eye magnets.
•"Always start your chapters with a quotation, for that is the soil from which wisdom grows." — Rex Huppke
Every workplace book worth its salt starts each chapter with a quote from someone who is clearly far more intelligent than the book's author. In just the past week, I received three books that used this technique. The quotes included one from Mahatma Gandhi ("The future depends on what you do today"); one from Soren Kierkegaard ("Decisions part the fog on stagnant waters") and one from Margaret Mead ("Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world").
This tells the reader that you are knowledgeable, or at least capable of thumbing through a book of famous quotations.
•If at all possible, use your book to create a buzzword. There are two reasons for this: 1) buzzwords have the potential to help you sell T-shirts containing them, and everyone knows the big money is in T-shirts; 2) It's easier to make up a word than to try to get your point across using actual words.
I recently came across a book called "Zentrepreneur." That's some grade-A buzzword manufacturing right there. Or as I call it, "buzzwordification."
•Now that you have your title, your chapter quotes and your buzzword, you need to fill in roughly 200 pages. Piece of cake.
Spend the first third of the book describing what the book is going to be about. It doesn't really have to be about much of anything, as long as you liberally sprinkle in some of the 30 words listed in the first step.
To put a little meat in the sausage, share an anecdote about how a close relative gave you advice that has been a "driving force" in your life. Ideally, that relative is dead, adding a certain emotional gravitas to the anecdote.
•The middle-third of the book is where you provide concrete "tips" or "steps to success." It's best to dispense these in easily digestible list form. Another book that recently crossed my desk included these steps to help you "envision your future":
1) Write down your vision statement.
2) If you can't find your own vision, join someone else's.
If you're asking, "What does that mean?" the answer is, "Who the hell knows?" But the beauty is, IT DOESN'T MATTER.
Surround your list of tips with anecdotes about how you shared them with "the CEO of a major corporation" or "a high-ranking executive" and how amazingly well everything worked out for said CEO or exec.
•The final third of the book is the easiest. Recap what the book was about! Simply cut and paste the first third of the book and move some words around, then add a couple of paragraphs about how you hope the book helps people, because all you ever really wanted to do was make the world a better place.
That's it! You're on your way to writing fabulous, inspirational, motivational, extraordinaritastical workplace books. All I ask is that you use the following dedication:
"For Rex, America's most-beloved workplace advice columnist, crushed to death by career books while building his work ark. He will be missed."
TALK TO REX: Ask workplace questions — anonymously or by name — and share stories with Rex Huppke at email@example.com, like Rex on Facebook at facebook.com/rexworkshere, and find more at chicagotribune.com/ijustworkhere.
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